June 2019 OES Beacon

The Singapore Autonomous Underwater Vehicle Challenge (SAUVC) 2019: The 7th Edition

Bharath Kalyan, Hari Vishnu, Venugopalan Pallayil & Ahmed Mahmood
(With Inputs From the SAUVC Committee)

Figure 1. Dr Mohamad Maliki bin Osman, Senior Minister of State at the Ministry of Defence and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Singapore, with the organizing committee and invited guests.

The seventh edition of the SAUVC was organized from March 8 to 11, 2019. It was held in Singapore Polytechnic. This edition was the largest ever in terms of team registration and participation, continuing the trend set by the past editions. It witnessed a record-breaking 61 teams registered. Similar to the previous editions, we also had a student engagement technical workshop on AUV related topics. Public engagement is an important element to any event and is the best way to disseminate the objective of scientific events to the general public. To meet this objective, SAUVC, this year and for the first time, organized two special events; a technical workshop featuring a tutorial on the basics of underwater robotics and another one on Robot Operating System (ROS) meet up. The details of these technical workshops have been covered in a separate report.

Participating Teams
The teams that registered for the event had to pass a qualification criteria for participation in the event. The teams were required to submit a video of their AUV swimming underwater for at least 10 seconds and demonstrate the usage of their AUV’s kill switch to showcase AUV operation and safety. Based on these criteria, 39 of the 61 registered teams were selected to compete in the event. In total there were around 350 student participants at the event. The SAUVC 2019 witnessed 11 teams from India, 6 teams from Singapore, 4 teams each from Indonesia & Malaysia, 3 teams each from Hong Kong, 2 teams each from Bangladesh, China, & Russia and a team each from Japan, Sri Lanka, Macau, Thailand & Taiwan respectively. The representation of teams from all across Asia, particularly from South Asia & South East Asia, was phenomenal and shows the value that SAUVC brings to this region. There were many first-timers and some regulars in the participating teams.

Opening Ceremony
Dr Mohamad Maliki bin Osman, Senior Minister of State at the Ministry of Defence and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Singapore was the guest of honor and inaugurated the 7th edition of SAUVC.

Following the inauguration, a walk-about session was organized where the senior minister had a chance to interact with some of the participating students. This was followed by a walk-about with a panel of judges scoring the teams for the newly introduced “most innovative engineering” award by IEEE OES.

Figure 2. Senior Minister of State,
Dr Mohamad Maliki bin ­Osman, interacting
with students during walk-about session.

The Challenge
The SAUVC 2019 consisted of two tiers—qualification round and final round for the participating teams. To qualify for the final round of the competition, the AUV had to swim from a starting line and pass through the qualification gate without surfacing, touching the bottom/wall or the qualification gate. Only the top 15 from the qualified teams, with the fastest time for the qualifying round, were allowed to advance to the final round. In the final round, the teams would accumulate points by completing a series of tasks aimed at testing the AUV’s acoustic and visual navigation capabilities, positioning, actuation and robotic manipulation. The table below provides the different functional capabilities of the AUV being tested and the related tasks.

Figure 3. Teams preparing for the challenge and having fun at the same time!
Figure 4. AUVs having a go at the challenge.

Each task carried a certain number of points, depending on the challenge and the difficulty involved in performing it. Teams were awarded bonus points if the AUV met certain weight and dimension conditions and also based on the time taken for the tasks to be performed. The tasks were similar to the past year’s competition, but made more challenging through randomization of the position of the buckets, flare and gate and its orientation. A complete description of the tasks, static judging criteria and award of points are covered in the competition rule book available at https://sauvc.github.io/rulebook/. 19 teams, out of the 39 that competed, completed the qualification task, which is a record within the SAUVC event. This demonstrated the improving quality of participating teams, and their increased level of preparedness. This could partly be attributed to prior participation by the teams in similar competitions held locally or regionally. Out of these 19, however, only the top 16 were allowed to compete in the finals due to constraints on the logistics and time available for the finals day.

Figure 5. SAUVC 2019 Champions: Far Eastern
Federal University, Russia.

SAUVC 2019: Award Winners
The team from Far Eastern Federal University, Russia, who has also been consistently in the top 3 over the last 5 years, emerged as the champions for completing the largest number of the tasks with additional bonus points on time and system weight. They have been doing consistently well because the team has passed on the expertise gained over the years effectively to junior teams. The team from Bogor Agricultural University, again one of the SAUVC veterans, secured the first runner-up position and the Northwestern Polytechnic University who were the SAUVC 2018 champions, secured the 2nd runner up position this year. The top 3 teams in the finals are as follows:

  1. Far Eastern Federal University/Institute of Marine Technology Problems, Russia
  2. Bogor Agricultural University, Indonesia
  3. Northwestern Polytechnical University, China
Figure 6. First Runner-up (Bogor Agricultural
University, Indonesia).
Figure 7. Second Runner-up (Northwestern Polytechnical University).

In addition to the top 3 finalists, we had introduced in this edition an OES “most innovative engineering” award. This was judged by a technical panel consisting of 5 members. The following rubrics were used to judge the teams:

  • Innovative Hardware Design and Engineering
  • Innovative Software Engineering
  • Innovative Operational Techniques
  • Innovative Competition Strategy
Figure 8. Most Innovation Engineering Award (City University, Hong Kong).

Innovation was defined as anything that is new/different and intentionally implemented for a specific stated purpose in SAUVC. Based on the above criteria, the team from City University Hong Kong (Team Pioneer) was awarded the OES “most innovative engineering” award, in this edition of SAUVC.
As in previous editions, we continued with the social media photo competition, which was started in 2016, to engage more students, including non-participants on the competition. This has also helped to get more visibility for the event. This year, the numbers on social media outreach and impressions achieved via the competition, went through the roof. SVKM’s NMIMS Mukesh Patel Institute from India received a staggering 46,077 likes on their photo, while Bogor Agricultural university, Indonesia received 17,300 likes. One of the noteworthy changes this time was the shift by teams to Instagram as the social media portal of choice for the competition, as compared to Facebook last year. Instagram was included in the list of allowed social media outlets only starting from this year, so that word of SAUVC would reach a larger crowd of youngsters worldwide.

Gala Dinner & Award Ceremony
The winners were announced at an award presentation ceremony on March 11th, which was held at University Town Auditorium, National University of Singapore. This saw over three hundred students come together with the guest speakers, SAUVC committee members and volunteers, for an eventful evening to close the competition. The award presentation saw some fun-filled and high-adrenaline moments when each of the prizes were announced. Loud cheers erupted when video summaries of the competition days were played, while participants rejoiced over the memories of the past 4 days. The gala dinner was hosted to show our appreciation to the participating student teams and our sponsors and volunteers, as well as facilitate good interaction to bring the curtains down on the event. A plaque was presented to the SAUVC 2019 committee by IEEE OES, in appreciation of their efforts in organizing the event successfully with such a large outreach.



Figure 9. The 7th edition local organizing committee received a token of appreciation from IEEE OES.
Dr. Ahmed Mahmood, the General Chair of SAUVC 2019 holding the plaque.

Figure 10. Participants enjoying the gala dinner at University Town Auditorium, National University of Singapore.

Participant Feedback

Figure 11. Participants feedback.

We sought anonymous feedback from the participants through an online survey following the event. The feedback was excellent.
Some statistics from the feedback are shown in an infographic here.

Some of the testimonials received are as follows:

“I enjoy listening to the talks and sharing sessions very much. The thing I like the most throughout the whole event is the atmosphere and interaction with other teams and professionals. It’s really a good learning platform. So, please organize again next year:)”

“Keep spare parts for EVERYTHING, make a lot of friends (including/specially the organizes)!! Try to arrive at least one day before day0, leave as late as possible;) In your main system/program/bot, add a status feedback(display/dashboard/led indicator) for all the sensors so that u know all your sensors are working properly.”

“The best part of this event was—It was more like a meet up of Engineering teams from different countries.”
“I have grown my knowledge and exercised my abilities. My favourite is post-match communication and party carnival.”

Event Publicity & Social Outreach
The event publicity statistics for this edition of SAUVC were impressive. The competition was extensively covered on social media platforms (Facebook, Instagram, Weibo, Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube) by our social media team. Instagram and Weibo were explored newly this year as publicity media, to tap into a larger base of youngsters, and also interested people from China. The SAUVC Facebook page saw very high activity based on the numbers we obtained from Facebook page statistics. The organic impressions on Facebook over a 2 week period from March 3-16 was 89,458. We also undertook extensive video coverage, which included video interviews with all the teams, invited guest speakers, getting their views on the competition and their experience at the event. Interviews of the teams and guests, and daily highlights from the event, are available at the following link (https://www.youtube.com/user/ARLTMSINUSChannel). The interest and international reach of the SAUVC was also evident from the fact that we had members from organizing committees of Robosub, RobotX and Virtual AUV Competition visiting us as observers and sharing their feedback.

Figure 12. Internet traffic on—1. sauvc.org 2. Weibo account 3. Twitter handle
4. Facebook page (Top to Bottom).


Figure 13. SAUVC 2019 sponsors & co-organizers.

The SAUVC is run solely on sponsorship. Like every edition, IEEE OES has been the biggest supporter and its local chapter is the co-organizer of the event. NUS & SP have been extremely supportive in co-organizing the event. ONR & ONRG have been supportive over the years and we had a big delegation visiting us, this year. Society of Underwater Technology had set up standees promoting their society during the event. We are very grateful and would like to say a big “thank you” to all our sponsors of SAUVC.

Organizing Committee & Volunteers
SAUVC is a complete volunteering effort. It is solely organized by a passionate group of ocean engineers. The local organizing committee (LOC) comprises of the chair, secretary, treasurer and five sub-committees namely technical, sponsorship, academic outreach, publicity & logistics.

SAUVC 2019 was attended by several invited eminent underwater robotics experts from around the world. This includes Mr. William Kirkwood from Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, a familiar face at SAUVC, who has been extremely supportive of the event over the years. His presence at the event has always been a morale booster for the organizing committee and the participants. Dr. Gabriele Ferri & Dr. Fausto Ferreira, from NATO Centre for Maritime Research and Experimentation were extremely supportive in judging the event and providing technical insights to the teams from their years of experience in organizing ERL. Ms. Kelly Cooper from Office of Naval Research & Mr. Richard Mills from Kongsberg Maritime were also a constant presence amongst the participants, and could be seen discussing with teams. We also thank Dr. Jeffrey Simmen from Office of Naval Research Global, Singapore office, another familiar face at SAUVC, for his extensive supportive of the event, over the years.

Figure 14. SAUVC 2019 LOC.

Concluding Remarks
SAUVC has been successfully organized for seven consecutive years now, growing each year and becoming possibly the largest and most well represented autonomous underwater vehicle competition for students in Asia. One aspect of SAUVC is that it does not charge a blanket registration fee for teams to participate. This is a policy aimed at promoting fledgling teams to compete, and generating interest in underwater robotics. SAUVC is also popular for its academic outreach, and we also try our best to provide mentoring for the teams. It was encouraging to see that there was very good information sharing amongst the teams. Most teams took home the message that SAUVC is all about learning and sharing rather than just competing. As far as we, the SAUVC committee are concerned, this is the biggest win of all and one that provides us with the utmost satisfaction.

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